In Vegas, diverse views of retail’s future
Two educational sessions at the 2011 National Hardware Show showed very different views of what the consumer is looking for from their hardware retailers.
In “Advertising, Adapting to Today’s Consumer: Myths vs. Reality,” James Robisch did his best to debunk the belief that Facebook and Twitter have signed the death warrant for print media. A senior partner of The Farnsworth Group, a market research and consulting firm specializing in the home improvement industry, Robisch shared the results of a recent study of consumers who answered in-depth questions about what types of advertising motivates them to hand over their money.
One of the most surprising results was that 82% of those surveyed are still making purchasing decisions about home improvement projects based on what they see in newspaper inserts and circulars. Another 58% said they base most of their decisions on these flyers.
"Print may be declining, but it’s certainly not dead,” Robisch said.
When asked what they look for, overall, in ads, 87% of the respondents said “products on sale.” Another 74% said “sales or discounted prices." Coupons came in third at 51%. The nationwide survey showed that coupon use is “up significantly,” according to Robisch; couponing is especially popular with the under-30 age group.
“Boom, Box, Echo, the end of big-box retail as we know it” did not predict the implosion of every Home Depot, Lowe’s and Menards on the planet. Although Doug Stephens of Retail Prophet Consulting did say: “It’s conceivable Lowe’s and Home Depot could become nothing but educational centers [where] they sell us nothing but the Kool-Aid.”
Stephens was referring to the notion of big boxes shifting their focus more toward all-encompassing services, solutions and expertise than products: a path that Lowe’s has indeed begun to tread. But the self-described “retail industry futurist” is more concerned with the improbability, as he sees it, of finding a merchandise assortment that can satisfy the increasingly diverse demographics that home improvement stores now serve.
“Markets are diverse and hard to predict, which makes it difficult to buy containers full of goods from China,” he said.
Stephens also pointed to the 120 million sq. ft. of empty big-box space in the United States as evidence that a new retail model was needed; the obvious choice, he said, was one that didn’t require such a big footprint: namely, the Internet.
But there will always be a need for physical stores, and Stephens noted an “urban land grab” among retailers today. He warned, however, that these stores will be much smaller and more efficient. “It’s going to change the supply chain for everyone,” Stephens said.
Product diversity on display in Las Vegas
New faces and veteran exhibitors gathered in the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday for the 2011 National Hardware Show. Always a collection of innovative new products and packaging, this year proved to be no exception, with offerings like the Easy Reach Plant Pulley (you can raise and lower hanging plants to water them) and Heat Zone, a shop light with a heater and a fan, both on display in New Product World.
Larger companies like Flexon, a manufacturer of hoses and watering accessories, took the opportunity to broaden into new categories. Flexon debuted a line of lightweight planters, gardening hand tools (long-handled, short-handled and cutting tools), and even a new wheelbarrow. In the paint and sundries department, Padco — the inventor of the painting pad — brought out a niche line of green products made of 100% recycled plastic, cardboard and soy ink.
Vermont American returned to the show after a 10-year absence with a 12-ft. planogram of power tool accessories. “The hardware show is a great venue to reconnect with your retailers, your key buyers,” said group marketing manager Arthur Stankiewicz. Both current and prospective customers “can get a sense of what it’s like to have Vermont American in your store,” said Stankiewicz, who was pleased with the foot traffic. “We’ve been seeing our customers since before the door opened.”
Robert Bosch Tool Corp. was another vendor that returned to the show after a 10-year absence.
Greg Fuller, CEO of All American Home Center in Downey, Calif., was on the lookout for “high-impulse and disposable or consumable” products for his Southern California hardware store. Once gas passed $4.00 a gallon, Fuller said, consumers pulled back on their spending.
“It’s a repair and fix-it market,” Fuller explained. “So I’m looking for items at lower price points that customers can use up and then come back to get another.” Top of Fuller’s list: dog chews and treats.
National Hardware Show kicks off Tuesday in Las Vegas
The 2011 National Hardware Show opens today in Las Vegas, featuring thousands of products organized across nine categories on the massive Las Vegas Convention Center show floor.
The Show will continue to offer exciting special events, including product demonstrations, roundtables, informative addresses and panels by industry experts, including the Golden Hammer Awards breakfast event, taking place Wednesday morning.
The 2011 National Hardware Show is the first to be held in conjunction with the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) All-Industry Convention.
The categories of buyers attending this year also include BJs (warehouse); Target and HSN (mass merchants/specialty/internet catalog); Price Chopper (major grocers); CVS and Albertson’s (chains); and Arett Sales Corp., Commerce Corp. and Foster’s (lawn/garden/outdoor living distributors).
“Personally, I have been attending the National Hardware Show for 20 years and have seen retailers of all sizes, states, countries and diverse business backgrounds,” said Brendan Sullivan, director of merchandising for PRO Group, Inc. “The merchandise team at PRO Group uses the National Hardware Show as an important source for new products and manufacturers. New products and programs are extremely important to PRO Group member distributors and PRO hardware retailers.”
Kris Kahn, president of The Fulham Group, explained that his company’s new line of portable outdoor grills caters to a cross-section of lifestyle segments — from camping and tailgating to beach and backyard entertaining — and that the event enables him to reach retailers in multiple segments all under one roof.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to grow our retail partnerships and channels of distribution at the National Hardware Show,” said Kris Kahn, president of the Fulham Group, the exclusive licensee for Cuisinart outdoor grills and grilling tools. “NHS attracts a wide variety of core retailers from traditional hardware segments as well as other target markets for Fulham, such as camping and specialty cooking retailers. This breadth of retail channels is one of the main reasons we chose to exhibit again this year.”